The $1 Trillion Platinum Coin Is Horrible, Lawless Policy

| Mon Jan. 7, 2013 12:26 PM EST

Paul Krugman thinks President Obama should starting thinking about minting a $1 trillion platinum coin to get around the debt ceiling:

It's easy to make sententious remarks to the effect that we shouldn't look for gimmicks, we should sit down like serious people and deal with our problems realistically. That may sound reasonable—if you've been living in a cave for the past four years. Given the realities of our political situation, and in particular the mixture of ruthlessness and craziness that now characterizes House Republicans, it's just ridiculous—far more ridiculous than the notion of the coin.

So if the 14th amendment solution—simply declaring that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional—isn't workable, go with the coin.

I've written before that I don't think a court would uphold such a thing, and I've gotten pushback from two main directions. First, who would have standing to sue? I don't know the answer to that, but I think there are plenty of possibilities, John Boehner at the top of the list. Second, a number of people have suggested that judges often don't look at legislative intent, so the fact that this is based on a loophole wouldn't be a problem. I doubt that. It's one thing not to dive deeply into legislative history, but it's quite another to allow the president to take a dramatic action that's plainly, obviously, 180 degrees away from the intent of the law.

But put that aside for a moment. I want to ask something else: Is this really the road liberals want to go down? Do we really want to be on record endorsing the idea that if a president doesn't get his way, he should simply twist the law like a pretzel and essentially do what he wants by fiat? My recollection is that we didn't think very highly of this kind of thing when we thought George Bush was doing it.

This whole thing is not just a ridiculous idea, it's a bad idea too. Republicans seem willing to set the country on fire to please their increasingly fever-swampish base, and eventually they'll pay a price for that at the polls. Sooner than that, they'll pay a price with the business community. This is a problem that we should work out via politics and public opinion, not by pretending the law allows the president to do anything he wants.

Front page image: DonkeyHotey/Flickr

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